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Kimberley Padro

C. Justice
Feature Writing

College is a time of change and with it comes an enormous amount of stress. Its a
balancing act on an individuals mental and physical health between classes, work
and activities. Being able to come home to floppy ears, a wagging tail and huge
glossy eyes can be a positive addition to a negative day.

Four-legged companions are being recognized all over the country for significant
improvements in college students attitudes, health and situational awareness while
decreasing stress.

Shannon Monck, 23, of Orlando, Florida, in the psychology masters program at

the University of Central, Florida says she would not trade her cats for anything in
the world.

Having my pets with me in college has helped me in so many ways, both

emotionally and professionally, said Monck. Whether Im stressed during finals,
or Im feeling emotional after a particularly long day, theyre there.

Students who have pets during college obtain a sense of home away from home,
especially if they grew up with pets in their household. Researchers from Ohio
State University conducted open-ended surveys, recently published in Society and
Animal journal. The results of subjects ranging from 18-87 years old showed that
nearly a quarter of the college students surveyed said that pets contributed to their
overall health by keeping them active, averting loneliness and helping them cope
during difficult times.

Alexis Kelley, 20, attending Loewenberg College of Nursing in Memphis,

Tennessee is the proud owner of a Siamese cat. She says, My cat is my family. I
do not mind being away from my paternal family. He has helped me with
emotional support many times for exams and during times when family arguments
happened. I know a lot of people say cats do not comfort much, but my kitty does.
He will follow me around when I get home, he will lay and cuddle with me, and
he loves to play together.

Sara Staats, professor emeritus of psychology at Ohio States Newark Campus

says, Many first and second-year studentsare in the beginning stages of
building a new network of friends. College students living far from home may find
it harder to deal with difficult situations because they are thrown into a new
environment and expected to find their way, often for the first time in their lives.

Having pets early in life is seen as contributing to ones self-esteem and selfconfidence, leading to the development of positive and trusting relationships with
others. Such relationships build verbal and non-verbal communication skills,
compassion, and responsive behaviors to positive and negative situations. These
individuals have grown to have an essential sense of well-being, guided by
upstanding principles that prompt the individual to see positive outcomes from
negative events.

Moving away for school was difficult at first. Before I moved, I saw my family
everyday said Monck. Now, Im lucky if I get home once a month. Having them
(her cats) with me makes living away from home a lot less intimidating and

Faith Moore, 24, attending the University at Buffalo, agrees that her dog Kato has
helped her through similar life events. I feel safer at home with my dog to protect
me and it helps with the distance from my parents, Moore said. When I come
home from a stressful day of school, I will go right to my dog Kato. I give and
receive kisses.

Many individuals with pets, especially those with cats or dogs, feel that they have
a sense of emotional security and home safety. David McKinney, 23, a double
major in biology and chemistry at the University of Arkansas, believes his pet is

better than an automated alarm system. He says, a dog is a foolproof alarm

system that never runs low on batteries, does not lie and cannot be easily

While some pets are very vocal and alert, Daniel Oliver, 23, a student at Campbell
University, believes that his pet is a little more laid-back than most. He chuckled
when commenting, I have not felt a change in the house being more secure or
protected with the addition of a dog, but Marley is also 17 years old, so his age
could play a factor. He would also not harm a fly.

Security can play a major factor when choosing an animal that is right for you, but
unfortunately financial liability is a factor as well. Pets cannot feed themselves,
groom, buy toys or buy necessities. They must rely on the owner. Being a pet
owner or parent can also be a lot of work for a busy college student. It can often
get in the way of an average college lifestyle.

Louie Porter, 22, of Southern Illinois University, says, Financially having a pet
can be a bit of trouble when you are trying to feed yourself, them, and live the
college lifestyle, said. It has however, given my life structure and financial
awareness that I have never had to acquire before.

Moore admitted that there has been a certain amount of difficulty when owning a
pet during her studies. The only hardship of having a dog in college came
financially. The vet bills were a huge inconvenience and put me back on paying
particular bills, she said. I definitely was prepared for the demand of owning a
dog based on my past experiences living with pets as a child.

Monck says that her pets have been a great relief to her stressful college lifestyle,
except when wanting to take trips, short or long. My animals add a certain level
of challenge at times. Living on my own with them means that I have had to turn
some opportunities down. Also, I have to account for them in my monthly budget,
which not all college students have to. She says, When I leave my apartment for
trips, I have to think about their safety and welfare. Its a lot of responsibility
owning pets, especially as a college student.

The students interviewed were asked about their pets being their best friends and
mixed emotions arose all around. Monk, Moore and Kelley agreed their pets were
more than their friends. They used the terms fur babies and family to describe
the relationships they possess. Oliver and Porter had no doubt that their animals
were their best friends, but McKinney had a totally different view on the nature of
friendship and pets.

Strictly speaking a friend is one that can connect with me on many levels
including some that are beyond the realm of possibility for a dogintellectually,
emotionally, and so on, McKinney said. While my dog is a very valuable and
appreciated companion, and is smarter in general than many people I encounter,
the term friend is a specific and exclusive term that I do not use lightly and is
one that no animal can qualify for.

Pets seem to have many meanings to those who care for them, but a few things
seem to be most common between testimonials. Pets in college households are
major contributors to relieving stress, depression and any sense of loneliness.
Whether it is emotional or physical, students from around the country are
exercising the positive effects that animals have had upon them while in college.
I care about humans, but I like dogs more, says Moore.